Everyone in America is familiar with the M16 rifle, first introduced in the Vietnam War and having been the standard issue U.S. Armed forces weapon ever since. Of course there is the civilian version of the weapon, the AR-15, which is not fully automatic and in some cases not made to military specifications, but otherwise functions the same, and the more popular in modern times M4 which is a lighter, shorter version of the M16.
Another popular military weapon, second globally only to the AK-47, is the Belgian made FN FAL, or what is essentially the same weapon made by Britain, the L1A1. The main consideration when comparing the M4 and the FN FAL is the 5.56×45 NATO round (.223 in civilian version) used with the M4 and the 7.62×51 NATO round (.308) used by the FAL.
The U.S. Military decided on the 5.56 round for the M16 because of the idea it is easier to carry more firepower with the lighter bullets. It has been debated whether such a concept is valid because of the need to “double tap” a target in close combat for full effectiveness when compared to the heavier 7.62 round of the FAL. However, it makes sense when considering the way in which Americans fight, in which a large percentage of troops are providing fully automatic cover fire, or when the goal is to send as many rounds as possible at the enemy to keep them at a distance until air support arrives. The M4 expands this idea by being even lighter and shorter, making it easier to carry and more efficient in close quarters urban combat settings.
In the most well trained hands, the M4 is considered a bit more accurate than the FAL, although the difference is negligible for the most part. In theory, the .308 FAL bullet seems like its power would give it a further range, but at 500 meters each rifle has the same effective range. For years, it was assumed a longer barrel was needed for greater distanced shots, but it turns out the power transfer a longer barrel provides isn’t enough to make any noticeable difference in a shot. When using traditional iron sights, the greater distance between the front and rear sight provides for a more accurate alignment. But with modern red dot, holographic, and lighted scopes such a factor isn’t a consideration.
Both weapons are semi-automatic, using the expanding gas from one shot to load the next. They both require regular cleaning and maintenance, more than the AK-47, but in military use this isn’t an issue as troops are expected to clean their weapons daily. There have been concerns about sand disrupting the operation of the FAL, but such an argument is largely unfounded as it is used by NATO forces and rebel soldiers across Northern Africa and in the Middle East.
Ultimately, they are each great guns, reliable and rugged, and will serve well both in military or civilian use.
~ Ready to Fire News